The Blue & Gold Macaw

The Blue & Gold Macaw (Ara ararauna) is a large macaw with spectacularly colored plumage that originates from parts South America. Blue & Gold or Blue & Yellow Macaws as they are also known are well known for their distinctive plumage, large beak and size. They are also known for their ability to make great pets. Within Australia the demand for these birds as pets and aviary birds is growing. 


Housing

Blue & Gold Macaws are strong flyers with quite a large wingspan thus require a large spacious aviary. Here at Perky Parrots we keep our Blue & Gold Macaws in suspended aviaries once designed for Amazons and converted for Macaws. Each aviary is set 1.2 metres off of the ground and measures 6 metres long x 2.4 metres wide x 1.2 metres high. Ideally a suspended aviary measuring 8 metres long x 2.4 metres wide and 1.8 metres high and situated 1.2 metres off the ground should be used.

However a conventional aviary of approximately 8 metres long x 2.8 metres high x 2.4 metres wide is acceptable. As with any aviary a safety walkway should be installed on the aviary provided. This will prevent birds from escaping. A large enough walkway should be created to get large objects like perches and carry boxes into. The walkway used at Perky Parrots is 1.5 metres wide and allows enough room to hang the nest boxes. 

If you are keeping your Macaws side by side (or next to birds of another species in a row of aviaries) double wiring or a full partition down the middle of the aviary is suggested. At Perky Parrots however we have a full colourbond sheet down the middle. This prevents toe biting and bickering between neighbours as well as allowing the birds privacy.

The back half of the roof of the aviary should be covered with a suitable colourbond sheeting like trimdeck and the front half with a suitable wire. This will allow the birds to sun themselves and enjoy rain showers at the front whilst being able to retreat to the back half during inclement weather or at times when birds of prey are about. Only steel should be used to construct the aviary these birds are housed in as they are great chewers of wood and will ruin a wooden framed aviary in a matter of minutes. 

Our Macaw aviaries (see photo included) have a cement rat wall that is sunk into the ground to a depth of 600mm with an extra 200mm above ground adjoined by colourbond sheeting. The colourbond sheeting is 1.2 metres high and prevents rodents and snakes from entering the aviaries. As these aviaries were once used for Amazons we used the wire already fitted to the aviaries. This wire measures 12.5mm x 12.5mm and is 1.6 gauge wire. This is used on the roof, sides and front. Internally we use a 25mm x 25mm 2 mm thick wire on the floor and back. This allows food stuffs and feces to fall through the bottom. Whilst we have never had a problem with either gauges we recommend the use of a quality heavier gauged wire. A cheaper product may not withstand an attack from a Blue & Gold Macaw.

Each bank of aviaries is also fitted with a sprinkler system and automated water. The sprinkler system is turned on when required and provides the birds with a fine mist to bathe in. The automated watering system however comes on twice a day and is triggered by a computer. Regardless of this all water is checked twice daily. 

If you intend on keeping your Blue & Gold Macaw as a pet it is advisable that you purchase a large, sturdy and spacious cage. These are available from most pet shops and pet product suppliers. As always let the shop know that it is required for a large Macaw and must be quality. Inferior cages although often cheaper then quality cages will just not do. Macaws will chew wood and so a wooden cage is not advisable nor is a plastic cage. A cage that is round is also not recommended as birds do not feel at ease in round cages.

A good cage should not be flimsy and be constructed of quality materials, have a good latch for locking the cage, be easy to clean and have appropriate bar spacing so the bird can not stick its head out of the cage. A quality cage should also have a removable tray and grid at the bottom of the cage. The tray acts to collect the bird’s droppings and fallen foods whilst the grid is designed to keep the birds from accessing potentially fouled food and their droppings. A cage should be cleaned every two weeks and the perches should be replaced regularly. As the Blue & Gold Macaw is an expensive bird a padlock may also be fitted.

Also essential for the cage are perches and high quality toys. Thick sturdy perches made out of non toxic branches such as those from eucalypts, bottlebrush, acacias or grevillia’s are great for use with both pet and aviary birds. It is wise to wash the perches and allow them to dry before placing them in the cage. When selecting branches to use as perches, you should select them from areas that are free from chemical sprays and that you are permitted to remove branches from. The renewal of chewed or fouled perches should be undertaken quite regularly as these birds are heavy chewers by nature.

Macaws require plenty of mental stimulation to prevent boredom and behavior problems and for this reason sturdy toys should be provided. These toys can be purchased from pet shops, bird toy suppliers and bird clubs. Before purchasing any toy for a bird it is wise to talk with whom ever it is selling the toy to you to make sure the toy is safe for use with your bird. Incidences where inferior quality toys have killed or maimed birds have been reported and continue to do damage due to poor advice.

Feeding 
Macaws require a higher fat diet then most species of parrot. Here at Perky Parrots we feed our Macaws a mix of small parrot seed mix, Roudybush pellets, sprouted seed, nuts and fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. We give a serving of 75 grams of executive parrot seed mix mixed with 35 grams of pellets and 6 to 8 nuts in shell for each pair of Macaws. Each day in the morning the birds receive fresh water and a mix of fruits, vegetables and sprouted seed. In the afternoon the water is changed and the pellets, seeds and nuts are given whilst any uneaten parts of the fruit, vegetable and sprouted seed mixture are removed from the aviary.
Fruits and vegetables which may be fed to these birds include carrot (boiled first and allowed to cool), grape, pear, apple, peas, corn on the cob, orange, star fruit, pumpkin etc. The fruits and vegetables should be cut into large chunks to allow the birds to hold these in their claws. Nuts in the form of Brazil, Pecan, Walnuts and Almonds in shell are recommended. The shells will be easily broken away by the powerful beaks of these birds.

Some foods should never be fed to any bird even though they may seem harmless or taste good to us. Avocado and Rhubarb are two such foods which should never be fed as they have may prove fatal to your bird/s. Chocolate, coffee, salt, tea, alcohol, sweets and food scraps are also not recommended.

Fruits and vegetables should only be kept in the aviary or cage for approximately four to six hours (depending on where you live and the climate in your area) and be kept out of direct sunlight so the fruits and vegetables won’t become spoiled and go sour or begin to ferment. Water should be replaced daily and water bowls should not be kept under perches as the birds may contaminate it with their droppings. Seed should be replaced on a daily basis if need be.

Made for Toys
As mentioned before Blue & Gold Macaws love toys and require them for mental stimulation. Toys suitable for Blue & Gold Macaws come in many forms. Some of which include foraging toys, ropes and chains suitable for birds (available from pet shops or bird clubs). Whilst ropes toys and chains can be great play toys they can also pose a risk if your bird gets its toes, beak or any other body part stuck so one must make careful observations regularly (daily if need be) to make sure that the rope or chain is in good working order and that there is no chance the bird could get itself stuck. If in doubt throw it out is the best way to think of it. 

The best toys of all though are seed pods (the dried seed pods of a number of eucalypt or banksia species are ideal), chew blocks (made of untreated wood) and fresh branches (easily grown in ones backyard) of non toxic tree and palm species. Branches which we use regularly to keep these birds entertained come from golden cane palms and bottlebrush's. Both give the birds something which is a little different. The bottlebrush with its smaller leaves, seed pods, flowers and bark are as appealing as the golden cane palm with its long leaves and stem and smooth bark. We often chop a whole palm to give to the birds in the aviaries. This may however be impossible for others to do.

Both the golden cane and bottlebrush are not only ideal but as is the supply of branches of Acacia fimbriatum. The replacement of any toy/s or branch/es should be undertaken regularly (for pet and aviary birds) as should be the regular rotation of toys. Regularly rotating toys will prevent boredom in these highly energetic and enquisitive birds.

Bathing
Blue & Gold Macaws kept as pets miss out on the rain in which they would normally get in an aviary. As a supplement the owner of a pet Macaw may choose to use a spray bottle with the nozzle on fine mist. If the bird does not like this then providing a few washed branches with fine droplets of water may help.

Handling
Blue and Gold Macaws kept as pets require daily handling. A minimum of 30 minutes each morning and 30 minutes each afternoon is required. If possible they should also be placed in an aviary during some part of the day. This will help the bird to absorb Vitamin D from the suns rays and get a good level of exercise.

Pet Blue & Gold Macaws like other birds need to have boundaries and should not be allowed to sit on anyone’s shoulder. Likewise the bird should be taught the step up and step down command and to obey these commands at all times.

If at some stage the bird begins screaming from inside its cage do not run to free the bird purely because it wants your attention. This will teach the bird that screaming is positive and that it will get the owners attention thus causing a disobedient bird with screaming issues. Ignore the bird and once it has stopped screaming take it out of the cage if you wish to spend time with it. If however the bird seems to be in distress immediately check to make sure that all is right.

If the bird begins to misbehave at any time place it back in the cage with the door shut for 5 to 10 minutes and walk away to teach it that what it did was wrong. How does this work one may ask? If the bird is enjoying time with its owner and suddenly nips or screams then by placing it back in the cage and not talking or paying attention to the bird makes it less fun for the bird. Being sociable they wish to be with the owner at all times. Never hit or throw the bird.

Household Hazards
Macaws by nature are inquisitive and destructive birds and will find any trouble in sight. Beware that many dangers exist in each household and that prevention is better then cure. Some of these dangers include poisonous plants, exposed electrical leads and wires, windows, water sources and Teflon cookware. Of course a number of other dangers may exist but those previously mentioned are amongst the most common.

Teflon cookware when heated can give off fumes that are poisonous to birds so it is recommended that you keep your birds well away from any area where you are using Teflon cookware. Failing to do this can result in the death of your bird/s. Glass windows pose a serious threat to both wild and pet birds which rarely notice them. It is for this reason that windows should be covered with blinds or curtains to prevent your bird/s from hitting them. Window strikes can prove to be fatal in some situations.

Commonly grown plants can also be poisonous, as can fertilizers and potting mixes so it is advisable that you keep all plants, fertilizers and potting mixes out of reach of your birds. Of course the washed branches of non toxic plants can be given to your bird/s to keep boredom at bay. If you are in doubt about whether or not a plant is poisonous or not then refrain from using it.

Exposed leads and wires are also a potential danger and should be kept well hidden to prevent your bird/s from chewing them. Macaws are not good swimmers and will find themselves in danger if they happen to land or fall into a large water source such as a kitchen sink filled with water, a toilet bowl or a fish tank. For this reason it is recommended that you keep your water sources covered or the birds well away from them. Keeping an eye on your bird/s at all times is highly recommended to avoid possible heartbreak.

Destructive Nature
Blue and Gold Macaws are destructive by nature as mentioned above. They will turn an antique chair into splinters within minutes, knock down a photo frame or possibly break a plate if left unsupervised. As always supervision is a must and children handling these birds should always be accompanied by an adult.

Points to consider before purchasing a Blue & Gold Macaw
1. They can be a noisy species.
2. Their size may be overwhelming.
3. Macaws can live for up to 80 to 100 years so do you have someone who will take it into their care when you pass away? 

Questions to ask yourself before purchasing a Blue & Gold Macaw
1. Can I dedicate enough time to these birds?
2. Can I provide the right conditions of care? 

These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself before purchasing one of these birds. 

Research
There are now plenty of books and websites dedicated to the care, keeping and breeding of Macaws. We here at Perky Parrots do not aim to put one off buying a Blue & Gold Macaw but aim to educate the potential buyer. In the following are few books which are recommended reading. Before purchasing a Blue & Gold Macaw be sure to do your reading and feel free to ask us any questions you may have.

Conclusion
Although the Blue & Gold Macaw is a large bird they are usually docile by nature and for the most part bite less frequently then most smaller birds. For those who have the time, money and dedication with prior experience with birds, the Blue & Gold Macaw may be a suitable bird for you. These large Blue and Gold beauties are sure to impress even the most ardent non-birdo.

Suggested Books and Articles 
A Guide to Macaws as Pet and Aviary Birds
Author: Rick Jordan





Young Blue & Gold Macaws
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